Myanmar

Overcoming child poverty in Myanmar: Investing in human capital, responding to COVID-19

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Without interventions, two million more children to fall into poverty in Myanmar-Central Statistics Organisation, UNICEF and UNDP report says

COVID-19 poses new challenges threatening to reverse gains in poverty reduction sustained over a decade

YANGON, 17 November 2020 – Myanmar has made great progress in reducing poverty in recent years, but COVID-19 is triggering a socio-economic crisis that is set to increase the number of poor children in the country by two million by the end of the year, according to an analysis conducted by the Central Statistical Organization of Myanmar, UNICEF, and UNDP.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit Myanmar, one-third of children—over 5 million— were already living in income poverty. An additional six million lived in households just above the poverty line, making them particularly vulnerable to economic shocks. In other words, more than half of children in Myanmar were living in either poverty or near poverty before the impact of COVID-19 further compounded their dire situation.

Families who were regularly surveyed over a period of four months, from the start of the pandemic, reported negative coping strategies such as reducing food consumption, as well as increased stress, greater burden of work for women, and an inability to support children’s learning.

“The main findings from this report are based on data from the Myanmar living conditions survey (2017) undertaken by the Central Statistical Organization with support from the World Bank and UNDP,” said U San Myint, Director General of the Central Statistical Organization. “This analysis will help us to better understand the vulnerabilities and risks being faced by children in Myanmar as a result of COVID-19. It will help the Government to enact an effective policy response to mitigate the impact and reduce inequalities.”

The report simulates the potential effects of various policy approaches and provides recommendations for an effective response, including the urgent scale-up and acceleration of cash transfers targeting families with children.

“Making critical investments today will ensure a timely, strong and sustainable response, leading to a faster recovery from the pandemic shock. These measures can go a long way to sustainably eradicating child poverty and building a more resilient and prosperous Myanmar,” said June Kunugi, UNICEF Representative to Myanmar.

Social protection measures can mitigate to some extent the pressures and effects of the pandemic on vulnerable children and households, the analysis of the report shows.

“Tailoring national social protection approaches and instruments to account for not only the poor pre-COVID-19 but also the growing numbers of new poor as a result of COVID-19, while enhancing their responsiveness to the differentiated socio-economic impacts will be key to building back better in Myanmar,” said Titon Mitra, UNDP Resident Representative in Myanmar.

The report also recommends specific public financial management measures—along with major public investment in social sectors, particularly health, social protection and education, as well as water and sanitation.

“There is currently an extraordinary opportunity to strategically re-think public expenditure in Myanmar, prioritizing policies that create positive impacts in people’s lives, particularly for families and children,’’ added Kunugi.

Note to editors:

Child poverty is a new indicator in Myanmar. While monetary household poverty in Myanmar has been measured frequently over the past decades, the number of children aged under 18 years living in poor households was first officially published in the Myanmar Living Conditions Survey in February 2020, just a few weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic hit Myanmar.

Building on this baseline data, the report aims to provide the Government, development partners, and other stakeholders with a framework for an effective socio-economic response to COVID-19.

Media Contacts

Htet Htet Oo
Communication Officer
UNICEF Myanmar
Tel: +95 9250075238
Email: hoo@unicef.org